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The early 19th century was a period of intense turmoil and chaos in the Spanish-speaking world: The Napoleonic Wars and French occupation of the Peninsula in the 1800s, independence movements in the Americas, the liberal constitution of Cádiz, Napoleon’s defeat, and the reinstallation of the Bourbons in the 1810s, and finally, the second constitutional period, the iron fist of restoration, and the eventual loss of most American possessions between 1821 and 1825. The least affected areas in the midst of this turmoil were the loyalist islands of Cuba and Puerto Rico, metaphorically the “eye of the hurricane.” It is within this context that a corpus of some dozen letters, preserved in the Spanish National Archive, were written. They were produced in the circum-Caribbean region—most in Puerto Rico—and addressed mainly to relatives and business partners on the other side of the Atlantic. The letters in question were archived without accompanying documentation, probably seized by authorities loyal to the restoration of the Ancien Régime. As a central element, this digital resource—“En el Ojo del Huracán”—displays these primary sources in an online presentation.
Beyond the historiographic value of the sources, the project explores the differences between traditional and digital edition standards (TEI) for digital letter editions with the aim of showcasing the benefits of implementing the digital paradigm and for different visualizations, functionalities, analysis and incorporation in larger infrastructures.
Joanne Harwood, Valerie Fraser, and Sarah J. Demelo
This is an advance summary of a forthcoming article in the Oxford Research Encyclopedia of Latin American History. Please check back later for the full article.
The Essex Collection of Art from Latin America (ESCALA) was originally founded as the University of Essex Collection of Latin American Art (UECLAA) in 1993, but, with no permanent display space, a versatile online presence has been essential to its success as a resource for students, curators, and researchers. By about the year 2000 it comprised around 400 works from about 10 different countries.
While it is important to remember that viewing a work of art onscreen is no substitute for viewing it firsthand, the digital catalogue is an essential aspect of ESCALA’s activities. It can offer resources that a paper catalogue cannot (it can provide a record of an artist’s performance, for example), it serves as a versatile resource for teaching and research, and it generates interest in the field among those who happen upon it through random searches.
FamilySearch, which constitutes the largest genealogical archival project and database in the world, offers rich online resources for research on the history of Latin America. FamilySearch constitutes an institutional arm of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, or the LDS Church, dedicated to genealogical research. It offers a wealth of resources with enormous potential for historical research on a broad range of topics and through diverse methods of investigation. The digital collection, which expands continuously, includes archival material from all the major regions of the world, including Latin America. For Latin America, the strength of the collection rests with parish and civil registers, censuses, and secondary sources on the genealogical and family history of the region.
Launched in 1997,
Between 1997 and 2006, the Website grew exponentially, but like many of its early counterparts, the site’s utility and navigability ultimately suffered as a result of the rapid development of new software and the obsolescence of existing digital platforms; searches became sluggish and unwieldy. While visitorship remained high for an academic site—over a million unique visitors a year—a 2012 survey indicated that scholars frequented only known parts of the site while novice users spent as little as a few minutes on the site. The global economic crisis of 2008 destabilized FAMSI’s funding, and in 2010 the Los Angeles County Museum of Art (LACMA) assumed stewardship of the foundation as well as the Website. The museum began to maintain and review
This research project investigates women’s involvement in the struggles to achieve political independence in Spanish America and Brazil during the first half of the 19th century. The project is hosted at the University of Nottingham, Department of Spanish, Portuguese, and Latin American Studies, School of Cultures, Languages, and Area Studies; it was funded by the University of Nottingham and the UK Arts and Humanities Research Council (AHRC) between 2001 and 2014. The online searchable database was a core output of the first of these AHRC-funded projects (2001–2006): “Gendering Latin American Independence: Women’s Political Culture and the Textual Construction of Gender 1790–1850.” It was enhanced in stages with an AHRC Pilot Dissemination Award (2006–2007) and Follow-on Funding (2012) for the crowd-sourcing project “
The aim of the follow-on-funding awards was to stimulate widespread public debate, preferably in collaboration with partners (national and international). This was of particular importance with respect to the involvement of Latin American women in the independence wars against Spain and Portugal, an aspect of women’s history that had been much neglected. Since 2006, a lively public debate has emerged about women’s involvement in the wars of independence, especially in Latin America. The debate has focused on women’s exclusion from mainstream nationalist historiography and their problematic position in postindependence politics and public culture. The unprecedented surge of interest in women’s history and the founding discourses of the Spanish American republics has been triggered by the bicentenary celebrations of Spanish American political independence, which began in 2010 and will continue into the 2020s, and the recent rise to political prominence of women in Latin America (women presidents in Brazil, Costa Rica, Chile, and Argentina).
The research project of 2001–2006 focused more specifically on the constructions of gender categories in the culture of the independence period and the impact of war and conflict on women’s lives, social relationships, and cultural production. The research emphasized the significance of women in the independence process and explored the reasons for their subsequent exclusion from political culture until recently. Independence was examined in terms of gender: (a) the study of women’s political culture, (b) women’s activities and writings, and (c) the textual construction of gender in political discourse. Questions were posed: Did the wars of independence change traditional ways of thinking about women, and change women’s views of themselves? How was the category “woman” produced historically and politically in Spanish America at the time? In what ways were those identified as women constructed ambiguously as subjects and objects in political discourse? What were women’s responses to the republican discourse of individual rights that equated individuality with masculinity? Why, after political independence, were political rights still denied to over half the population according to the criterion of sexual difference?
The Getty Research Institute (GRI) has an extensive collection of online digital resources, with two portals that focus on Mexico. The first portal discussed in this article is A Nation Emerges: Sixty-five Years of Photography in Mexico, and the second portal discussed is Obsidian Mirror-Travels: Refracting Mexican Art and Archaeology. These portals are the online versions of GRI exhibitions. Viewers of A Nation Emerges: Sixty-five Years of Photography in Mexico will find numerous primary sources, mostly photographs, related to major historical events from 1857 to 1923. This will serve as a useful resource for scholars and students interested in photohistory. The online exhibition Obsidian Mirror-Travels: Refracting Mexican Art and Archaeology offers a wealth of online digitized images related to Aztec art, culture, and archaeology.
Although A Nation Emerges: Sixty-five Years of Photography in Mexico contains superb resources, the site is difficult to navigate and can result in viewers missing much of what it offers. Therefore, this article provides a road map of sorts with the goal of helping scholars and students save valuable time during the research process. This guide will greatly streamline the user experience for those navigating A Nation Emerges: Sixty-five Years of Photography in Mexico. In fact, readers may want to consider having access to this article while they are navigating the particular portal.
On the other hand, viewers will find Obsidian Mirror-Travels: Refracting Mexican Art and Archaeology much easier to navigate. As such, a general overview, rather than a detailed guide is provided for this portal to allow users to direct their research with efficiency and accuracy when navigating the site.
The article concludes with a brief discussion in the “Digitized Resources” section, of the literature, methodology, and historiography of photohistory.
Recorded in UNESCO’s Memory of the World Register in 2007, Felipe Guaman Poma de Ayala’s Nueva corónica y buen gobierno (1615) offers remarkable glimpses into ancient Andean institutions and traditions as well as those of colonialized Andean society in the Spanish viceroyalty of Peru. Housed at the Royal Library of Denmark since the 1660s and first published in photographic facsimile in 1936, the autograph manuscript (written and drawn by its author’s own hand) has been the topic of research in Andean studies for several decades. Prepared by an international team of technicians and scholars, the digital facsimile was placed online on the newly created Guaman Poma Website at the Royal Library in 2001. Thanks to its free global access, research has accelerated, offering new and ongoing challenges in such fields as history, art history, environmental studies, linguistics, literary, and cultural studies in Andeanist, Latin Americanist, and post-colonialist perspectives. The work’s 1,200 pages (of which 400 are full-page drawings) offer Guaman Poma’s novel account of pre-Columbian Andean and modern Spanish conquest history as well as his sometimes humorous but most often harrowing exposé of the activities of all the castes and classes of the colonial society of his day. Guaman Poma’s account reveals how social roles and identities could evolve under colonial rule over the course of a single individual’s lifetime. As a Quechua speaker who learned Spanish, and thus called an “indio ladino” by the colonizers, Guaman Poma’s Quechua-inflected Spanish prose may present reading challenges in both its handwritten form and searchable typeset transcription, but his 400 drawings welcome casual as well as scholarly and student readers into the rooms and onto the roadways of that multi-ethnic—Andean, African, Spanish, and Spanish creole—world.
Matthew Butler and David A. Bliss
The Hijuelas project is a multi-domain international collaboration that makes available in digital form a large and valuable source on nineteenth-century indigenous history––the so-called libros de hijuelas or deed books recording the statewide privatization of indigenous lands in Michoacán, Mexico. These deed books, 194 in total, have been digitized and described over a two-year period by a team of History students from Michoacán’s state university, the Universidad Michoacana de San Nicolás Hidalgo (UMSNH), trained by and working under the supervision of archivists of the Lozano Long Institute of Latin American Studies-Benson Latin American Collection of (LLILAS Benson) of the University of Texas at Austin. Additional logistical support has been provided by the Centro de Investigaciones y Estudios Superiores en Antropología Social (CIESAS) as a partner institution in Mexico of the University of Texas at Austin and by the state government of Michoacán via the Archivo General e Histórico del Poder Ejecutivo de Michoacán (AGHPEM), which is custodian of the hijuelas books. The project was generously funded by the British Library through its Endangered Archives Programme (EAP 931, “Conserving Indigenous Memories of Land Privatization in Mexico: Michoacán’s Libros de Hijuelas, 1719–1929”).
The project seeks to be innovative in two ways. As a post-custodial archiving project, first and foremost, it uses digital methods to make easily accessible to historians, anthropologists, and indigenous communities the only consolidated state-level record of the land privatizations (reparto de tierras) affecting Mexican indigenous communities in the 19th century. It therefore projects digitally a key source for historians and one that possesses clear identitarian and agrarian importance for indigenous communities. It also makes widely available a source that is becoming physically unstable and inaccessible because of the difficult public security conditions affecting Michoacán. As a collaboration involving diverse institutional actors, furthermore, the project brings together institutions from three different countries and is an example of what may be achieved through equitable international collaborations.
HAPI began as a local project at Arizona State University (ASU) in 1973. Its founder, Barbara G. Valk, the librarian responsible for Latin American materials at ASU, wanted to provide an index to the university’s periodical literature on the region, which was something that had been unavailable since the cessation of the OAS-sponsored Index to Latin American Periodicals in 1970. Following the success of the project, HAPI moved to the UCLA Latin American Center (now Latin American Institute) in 1976, where Valk used a grant from the National Endowment for the Humanities to fund further development of an annual printed edition of the index. This annual volume would continue to be published through 2008. HAPI was first searchable online via Telnet in 1991 and CD-ROM in 1992; its first website debuted in 1997. Now exclusively available online, HAPI is a self-supporting, not-for-profit publishing unit within UCLA, with subscribers (primarily university and college libraries) around the world. Free subscriptions are provided to institutions in Latin America and the Caribbean.
HAPI now contains over 300,000 citations to journal articles about Latin America, the Caribbean, and Latina/os in the United States and around the world. Articles date back to 1968 following an early retrospective indexing project to cover the gap between the last volume of the Index to Latin American Periodicals and the first volume of HAPI. Almost 400 journal titles are currently indexed and over 600 titles have been included since HAPI’s creation. Subject coverage includes the social sciences and the humanities; history titles represent the largest single subject area covered. HAPI aims to provide access to the most well-known and influential titles in Latin American studies as well as to regional titles that are less well known and often underrepresented in disciplinary indexes with limited Latin American and Caribbean content. Librarians (staff and volunteers) with relevant subject training examine each article and create bibliographic descriptions, subject headings, and keywords for multiple access points to the journal content. Searches can be carried out in English, Spanish, or Portuguese on HAPI’s trilingual website.
HAPI has provided links to the online full-text content of many of its indexed titles since 2003. At that time, with university and college libraries spending heavily on commercial databases, students and scholars were increasingly expecting easy access to the full text of journal articles, but few Latin American and Caribbean journals were included in these commercial products. With limited financial and technological resources, HAPI was unable to become a full-text publisher; instead, HAPI staff focused on tracking down and linking to the full text of the indexed journals wherever they could find it, especially in two Open Access regional databases: Mexico’s
HAPI has provided links to the online full-text content of many of its indexed titles since 2003. At that time, with university and college libraries spending heavily on commercial databases, students and scholars were increasingly expecting easy access to the full text of journal articles, but few Latin American and Caribbean journals were included in these commercial products. With limited financial and technological resources, HAPI was unable to become a full-text publisher; instead, HAPI staff focused on tracking down and linking to the full text of the indexed journals wherever they could find it, especially in two Open Access regional databases: Mexico’s Redalyc (
Anne Pérotin-Dumon and Manuel Gárate
Historizar el pasado vivo en América Latina (Historicizing the living past in Latin America) is an edited digital publication composed of thirty-four studies. Available online since 2006, it was the first extensive effort to examine the region’s new contemporary history after the return to democratic rule following dictatorships or internal armed conflicts. Historizar el pasado vivo en América Latina remains to this day the most systematic undertaking in Spanish and digital format to explore this historia reciente (or historia del tiempo presente)—“addressing recent events that remain in the memories of many, by historians that lived through them, in a time in which their dramatic character has made them an enduring moral problem for the national conscience.” More broadly, the publication aims to convey to professional historians and Latin Americanists in other disciplines the breadth and quality of this exciting intellectual development.
The editor’s substantial introduction, “Verdad y memoria: escribir la historia de nuestro tiempo,” analyzes the central issue of Latin America’s historia reciente (viz., to develop a historical critique close to events that have often affected historians themselves); its distinctively Latin American character (viz., as history written in an age framed by a culture of human rights); and how this work compares to European precedents (viz., as an interdisciplinary field drawing from the testimony of witnesses—oral history—but with more problematic access to archival collections).
This digital publication has a geographic focus on Argentina, Chile, and Peru but also presents various genres of history writing and retains a balance between case studies, more conceptual pieces, review essays, etc. A digital format is particularly apt for the publication’s most likely users—Latin American and Spanish faculty, teachers, and students drawn to the field of recent history or already working in it. A final section of the article assesses the contribution of Historizar el pasado vivo en América Latina to the field and surveys related online materials that have appeared since 2006.
Ana Maria Mauad
This is an advance summary of a forthcoming article in the Oxford Research Encyclopedia of Latin American History. Please check back later for the full article.
Since its creation in 1982, the Laboratory of Oral History and Image (LABHOI), a division of the History Department of Universidade Federal Fluminense (UFF), Brazil, has been developing projects on the history of memory of different Brazilian communities, based on both oral and visual sources and the relationship between them.
The main purpose of LABHOI’s projects, despite its academic origin, is to engage communities in the production of their own history through visual and oral records. One of the results of this work is the organization of a digital database, accessible for a large public, that covers three fields of interest: Memory, Africa, and Slavery; Memory, Art, and Media; and Memory, City, and Communities.
LABHOI has become an important source for theoretical and methodological debates about the uses of visual representations of the past, and its members have published books and articles in this field. Recently LABHOI turned to the production of experimental videos based on the idea of the “videographic writing” of history, a modality of historical text that can perfectly mix sounds and images of recollections.
The video productions of LABHOI include the DVD box set Passados Presentes (Present Pasts) with four documentaries built upon our audiovisual archive Memórias da Escravidão (Memories of Slavery), launched in 2012. This audiovisual collection has been developed since 1994 and is composed of more than 300 hours of interviews with the descendants of slaves of the old plantation coffee areas of Rio de Janeiro.
Other projects developed during the last ten years include: Sons e Imagens da Rememoração: Narrativas e Registros das Identidades e Alteridades Afro-Brasileiras dos séculos XIX ao XXI (Sounds and Images of Recollections: Narratives and Records of Afro-Brazilian Identity and Otherness from the 19th to the 21st Centuries) (2010–2013), sponsored by the Brazilian Research Council (CNPq), in which an international network of researchers worked on issues concerning the memory of slavery. História e Memória da Prática Fotográfica no Brasil Contemporâneo (History and Memory of Photographic Practice in Contemporary Brazil), started in 2003, which is organizing a database of interviews with different professionals who have worked before, during, and after the Brazilian dictatorship in order to understand the political role played by photography in producing historical meaning about the present time and the organization of photojournalism as a field for public photography.
Since 2013 LABHOI officially included public history as one of its fields of debate and research with the approval of two new projects: História Pública, Memória a Escravidão Atlântica no Rio de Janeiro (Public History, Memory, and Atlantic Slavery in Rio de Janeiro), sponsored by the Carlos Chagas Foundation, Rio de Janeiro (FAPERJ), which is developing a new approach to the study of the Atlantic diaspora in Rio de Janeiro, a city that has one of the major populations of Afro-descendants in Brazil; and Expanding the Global Feminisms Archive: Brazil and the “BRICS” Five, which is being compiled together with a team of scholars from the University of Michigan.
Gallica, the digital library of the Bibliothèque Nationale de France, was launched in 1997. The library contains almost five million documents (manuscripts, books, journals, newspapers, maps, iconographic documents, and recordings), many of which are connected to Latin America, offering rich perspectives on the relationships between France and Latin American countries across the centuries. The many travel narratives, testimonies, essays, photographs, and maps available provide rich insight into French perception of Latin America from the early 16th century to the mid-20th century. Although Gallica’s collection of manuscripts on Latin America is not plentiful, one of its main goals is to provide easy access to rare French books printed centuries ago, of which not many copies are available today and which are rarely present in other digital libraries. The richest collection is probably on Brazil, since Gallica has organized a special collection titled “France-Brésil” which provides access to the rich personal collection of books and manuscripts of the first French historian of Brazil, Ferdinand Denis (1798–1890), among other treasures. Gallica has undeniable value for researchers specialized in Latin American history, although working on its collections requires at least reading proficiency in French as the vast majority of the accessible resources are in French.
Digital Resources: LLILAS Benson Latin American Studies and Collections, University of Texas at Austin
LLILAS Benson maintains one of the world’s largest collections of digital assets designed to support Latin American studies. These vast digital holdings, all of which reside on open-source platforms and are freely available to a global audience via the Internet, trace their roots back to the early 1990s, before the advent of the World Wide Web. Since that time, LLILAS Benson has forged partnerships with a broad array of researchers and content producers throughout the Americas in order to bring vital Latin American studies content online while at the same time helping to build local capacity in areas such as digitization, metadata, and preservation throughout the region. These digital collections include materials useful to scholars in a broad array of disciplines, particularly in the humanities and social sciences.
One of the main strengths of the collections is in the area of archival and historical sources, with extensive digitized materials spanning more than five centuries and all countries in Latin America and the Caribbean. The digital collections are particularly strong in terms of Mexican history. Major holdings in the digital collections that include material of interest to those conducting historical research are the following:
• PLA—The Primeros Libros de las Américas project brings together twenty-one libraries and archives in a collaborative initiative that seeks to digitize all surviving copies of books printed in the New World prior to 1601.
• AHPN—The Archivo Histórico de la Policía Nacional contains more than twelve million pages of digitized Guatemalan police records from the late 19th century through 1996.
• AILLA—The Archive of the Indigenous Languages of Latin America is a digital archive of recordings and texts in and about the indigenous languages of Latin America.
• Archivo de Lucas Alamán is a digital archive of more than 350 manuscripts from the personal papers of this influential Mexican statesman. The papers cover the period 1589–1853.
• Archivo de José María Luis Mora—This digital archive contains scanned copies of more than 600 documents, both manuscripts and printed works from the first half of the 19th century, as well as an exhaustive guide describing the collections.
• LANIC—The Latin American Network Information Center is a collection of subject- and country-based resource guides containing more than ten thousand links to Web-based Latin American studies content.
• HRDI—The Human Rights Documentation Initiative is committed to the long-term preservation of fragile and vulnerable records of human rights struggles worldwide and includes important partnerships in Latin America.
• Web archives that are of use to historians include the Latin American Government Documents Archive, or LAGDA, which contains copies of the Websites of more than 250 governmental ministries since 2005, and a collection of human rights–related Websites curated under the auspices of the HRDI, among others.
Collectively, the LLILAS Benson portfolio of digital initiatives includes more than ten million pages of digitized archival records; several hundred thousand pages of digitized full text and images, including monographs, journals, scholarly papers, manuscripts, ephemera, and so on; thousands of hours of digital audio and video recordings; and more than a hundred million Web-archived files. The collection of curated resource guides for Latin American studies contains more than ten thousand outbound links. Taken as a whole, the Websites holding these digital assets generate more than three million pageviews per year. The vast majority of the digital holdings consist of unique items, thus filling an important void for scholarship left by mass digitization efforts, such as Google Books and the Internet Archive’s Million Books Project.
LLILAS Benson is committed to promoting open access to scholarly resources. In contrast to the unique digitized materials hosted by database vendors and aggregators, such as Gale’s “World Scholar Archive: Latin America and the Caribbean” or EBSCO’s “Academic Search Complete,” nearly all the digital content that LLILAS Benson hosts is on the open Internet, available to any and all users regardless of location or affiliation, and without any type of registration. The one exception is AILLA, where no-cost registration is required to open or download media files.
Alvaro Liuzzi and Tomás Bergero Trpin
The Malvinas War, also known in Spanish as the South Atlantic Conflict (conflicto del Atlántico Sur), was a war between Argentina and the United Kingdom that took place in the Malvinas Islands, South Georgia, and South Sandwich between April 2 and June 14, 1982. During 2012, thirty years after the conflict, the Malvinas/30 web documentary was produced in Argentina, conceived as a transmedia production in real time. It was designed to serve as a space of collective digital memory that would involve users and recreate on social networks the hostile atmosphere of the South Atlantic Islands at the time of the skirmish.
The documentary, produced by an interdisciplinary team, was developed as a continuous interactive production for five months that, by extending its narrative through different digital platforms, sought to allow users to relive the events of the Malvinas War as they had occurred three decades before in 1982. To meet this goal, Malvinas/30 was organized along three central axes: narrative synchronization between past and present (telling the story as if it were happening today); unfolding the story on different media (social networks, traditional media, and other media); and generating interactive responses from users (a collective story as a space for historical memory).
Since 1982 there have been at least 2,000 massacres in Colombia committed by different illegal groups and by members of the Colombian army and police. The development of the conflict in Colombia has a direct relation with the causes and consequences of these crimes, perpetrated in most cases by paramilitary armies, associated to varying degrees with the cocaine trade. Paramilitary groups were a counterinsurgency force organized by the State, or independent, and supported economically by drug cartels and some landowners and businessmen.
Although guerrilla armies, insurgency, and communist groups created mostly in the 1960s perpetrated several massacres, these crimes were systematically used primarily by paramilitary groups to terrorize people in places where they had a particular interest, such as drug trafficking or vying for political power. In its book ¡Basta ya!, the Centro Nacional de Memoria Histórica has documented that 59% of the massacres were committed by paramilitary groups and 17% by guerrillas.
Rutas del Conflicto is a project created by journalists that marks the evolution of these groups through more than 30 years of war. Using mapping and timeline tools developed especially for the project, it has documented more than 700 of these crimes, displaying the degree to which the tragedy has affected the lives of millions of people in Colombia.
Liza Bakewell and Byron Ellsworth Hamann
Mesolore: Exploring Mesoamerican Culture is a variously incarnated bilingual resource for teaching and research on indigenous Mesoamerica. The project’s first iteration began in the late 20th century, when its authors developed a CD-ROM/Internet hybrid and released it on two discs in 2001. This version of the project centered on three interactive primary-source Ñudzavui documents from Oaxaca, Mexico: the prehispanic Codex Nuttall, the Codex Selden (c. 1560), and the Mixtec Vocabulario of Francisco de Alvarado (1593). Ten tutorials on Ñudzavui writing and culture, three introductory video lectures, an interdisciplinary gallery of scholarly portraits, four audio debates, and an atlas supported these core materials.
The explosion of broadband Internet at the dawn of the 21st century suddenly made it possible to deliver Mesolore’s high-resolution images and multimedia content online—and simultaneously sounded the death-knell for the CD-ROM as a medium. The second phase of the project therefore worked to gather funding for an online reincarnation and expansion of the project’s core content to include three documents from Nahua Central Mexico: the Matrícula de Tributos (c. 1519), the Lienzo de Tlaxcala (c. 1552), and the Nahua vocabulary of Alonso de Molina (1555). Like their Oaxacan predecessors, these three documents were supported by ten tutorials. Also new for the online relaunch was an archive of hundreds of primary-source alphabetic documents transcribed from physical archives in Mexico, Spain, and the United States. In addition the authors and designers redesigned Mesolore’s atlas to allow for better comparison of the geographic scope of the four core pictorial primary sources (the Nuttall, the Selden, the Matrícula, and the Lienzo). After much drama involving funding agencies, incompetent designers, and incompetent programmers, mesolore.org went live late in 2012, just in time for the non-Apocalypse on December 21.
Although Mesolore’s creators now focus on print publications delivered on paper, their efforts to offer democratically accessible, multidisciplinary pedagogical and research materials to any and all users, as well as translate three-dimensional painted manuscripts into the light of computer screens, generated productive inquiry. Furthermore the detailed interpretations of text offered from the outset insights into how those documents communicated visual information at various scales, as well as how the differing scales of their geographical representations connected to 16th-century political claims.
Digital Resources: The Mexican Digital Library, BDMx (Mexican National Council for Culture and the Arts)
Andrea Martínez Baracs
This is an advance summary of a forthcoming article in the Oxford Research Encyclopedia of Latin American History. Please check back later for the full article.
The Biblioteca Digital Mexicana (BDMx) provides access—for the average user as well as for students and scholars—to significant historical materials, "unpublished or very rare," as was said in the second half of the nineteenth century, the golden age of Mexican historiography. The BDMx is not concerned with documents that have a principally symbolic value (such as autographs or decrees about the founding of cities); rather, it deals with those with high cultural density, whose value is not diminished upon their first reading. Finally, the BDMx contains only materials that are not already easily found online, which, unfortunately, excludes a great number of very valuable works.
This initiative was founded and directed with the support of a directorial council comprised of the directors of four important Mexican institutions connected to Mexican history and culture: the Archivo General de la Nación (AGN), the Biblioteca Nacional de Antropología e Historia (BNAH), the Centro de Estudios de Historia de México (CEHM-Carso), and the Consejo Nacional para la Cultura y las Artes (Conaculta). With this institutional backing, the BDMx has been able to add eight additional archives and libraries, and it continues to grow.
The AGN houses most national historical archives; the BNAH holds the main Mesoamerican Codices collection of the country, and its Colección Antigua has long been appreciated by scholars, with holdings such as the Franciscan Archives collection; CEHM-Carso is a private library that has acquired unique archival collections; Conaculta is our Ministry of Culture and, as such, has under its wing many regional museums, important photography collections, and more. The BDMx also works closely with the Universidad Iberoamericana's Biblioteca Francisco Xavier Clavijero, a private library that holds the Porfirio Díaz Archives and much more. And the Mapoteca Manuel Orozco y Berra, founded in the nineteenth century, holds a trove of historical maps.
The BDMx chooses the documents by common agreement with the curators of these collections. It looks for variety in the types of documents and supportive materials (books, other publications, manuscripts, pictography, photography, lithography, and so on). The themes are self-selected, due to their own worth and because they might mark an important anniversary or a centennial. Up to the present, some of the principal selections have been Mesoamerican codices, the unpublished oeuvre of Guillén de Lampart, ancient maps and plans, and the work of Rodrigo de Vivero.
Each item is accompanied by a historiographical introduction that aims to be up to date and relevant. The user is distracted with nothing other than the presentation of the documents, in a clean and friendly format. And the worth of the project lies in the quality of the documents. This is an example where less is more.
The expansion of the Internet and computing technologies has transformed, heuristically, methodologically, and epistemologically, the scholarship on modern Atlantic slavery and the slave trade. An increasing number of primary and secondary sources are now available online. Archives, universities, libraries, research centers, and other institutions have digitized partially or entirely historical collections and archival records and made them public through digital portals in a variety of formats. Users can instantly access, analyze, search, share, transfer, visualize, and interact with a vast amount of historical data on slavery and the slave trade, which, in the late 20th century, was scattered across archives and libraries. The increasing Web presence of digital repositories on Latin American historical slavery and the slave trade is changing previous scholarly perceptions about broader demographic, historical, and social issues, as well as about the everyday life of enslaved Africans. Digital databases on the slave trade, for instance, are answering long-term historiographical concerns regarding the number of captives carried to the Americas, their African embarkation regions, or the nationality of the carriers. Digital repositories and databases help to better understand the African geographical origins of the slaves and their ethnicities, a key component in the formation of the Afro-Latin American culture. Digitized repositories such as baptismal, marriage, and burial archival records and databases on runaway or self-liberated slaves, plantation lists, or court cases are filling gaps in scholars’ understanding of the internal dynamics of the institution of slavery, which characterized most of Latin American history for about three centuries.
Rosemary A. Joyce and Russell N. Sheptak
The Online Finding Aid for the Archivo General de Centro América will provide increased ways for researchers to identify documents of interest in a widely distributed microfilm copy of this primary resource for the history of Guatemala, Honduras, El Salvador, Nicaragua, Costa Rica, and Chiapas (Mexico). The original archive, located in Guatemala, houses approximately 147,000 registered document collections from the colonial period, ranging in date from the 16th century to independence from Spain in 1821. The microfilm copy, composed of almost 4,000 reels of microfilm, is organized according to basic keywords designating the original province in colonial Guatemala, a year, and a subject-matter keyword. Also associated in the basic records of the finding aid (which are already available online) are the reference number assigned each document in the original archive, and the specific reel(s) on which it is found. With funding from the National Endowment for the Humanities, enhanced records are being created for documents dating between 1700 and 1821 identified as associated with Guatemala, the administrative heart of the colony, for which there are no published indices. Enhanced records add names of people and places not recorded in the original record, opening up the microfilm collection, and through it, the original archive, to broader social history including studies of the roles of women, indigenous people, and African-descendant people.